Whether shopping at home or looking for a place to grab lunch, everyone loves a bargain. That's why daily deal apps are so popular. According to a report by BIA/Kelsey, Americans are expected to spend nearly $5.5 billion in 2016 on daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Such sites have expanded since their humble beginnings several years ago with offers on a wide variety of products, services, and experiences at steep discounts. They've also pushed into the mobile world, allowing users to buy and redeem deals quickly from smartphones.
We checked reviews of some daily deal apps to find the best resources for consumers.
Groupon is, without doubt, king of the daily deal sites. Launched in 2008 and taken public in late 2011, it operates internationally and features hundreds of deals every day.
The free Groupon app is available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows phones. Once set up, users have mobile access to local daily deals, getaway deals, Groupon goods (physical products), and online deals. A gifts section helps gift-givers save some cash, and the new reserve section lets users make reservations at restaurants and receive a discount. Daily deals also are redeemable on smartphones upon entering a store.
The Groupon app scores rave reviews from users and is among the top 50 free apps in iTunes. The current version claims 4.5 stars with more than 750 reviews. Consumers call the app amazing and note how easy it is to see products, find and purchase deals, and save money. They also warn others to keep an eye on deal expiration dates. The Groupon app likewise receives 4.5 stars in the Google Play store with more than 250,000 reviews. Blackberry users approve of their version of the app, as well, although it earns only 3 stars through Windows Phone, where users report it loads slowly, has trouble finding their location, and lacks a search function.
LivingSocial is a lot like Groupon and gaining ground against that market leader. This daily deals site offers handpicked experiences in numerous stateside locations as well as several international spots. The LivingSocial app is available for iPhone, Android, and Windows phones. Like Groupon's daily deals app, it offers deals targeted to a location or uses GPS to show deals near the user. LivingSocial categorizes its deals as home, escapes, fun and events, and shop. When purchasing a deal you're prompted to share it with friends via social networks or email. If three friends buy the deal you get your deal for free (except on vacation packages).
The LivingSocial app garners good reviews on iTunes, where most consumers say it's user-friendly, although one who lives far from a major city wasn't able to find any deals for local stores. The Android version of the LivingSocial app doesn't hold up, though. Daily deal app reviews on Android Market assert that the LivingSocial app doesn't show local deals even though it should, won't allow users to change locations, and often freezes.
The Gilt family of three apps -- Gilt, Gilt City, and Jetsetter -- focuses on luxury. The first features deals on designer clothing and accessories for women, men, and children as well as deals in major cities, travel deals, and bargains on designer home goods. The second simply replicates the local deal portion of the first app. Jetsetter is all about vacation packages and deals on last-minute hotel bookings. All deals are open to members only, but sign-up is free.
The latest version of the Gilt app for Apple devices picks up only 5-star reviews, but there aren't enough to form a clear picture. The posted reviews focus on the excellent customer service and the value -- the deals aren't cheap but the items are high quality. Android users complain that their version of the daily deal app isn't as good. They say it's sluggish, settings are limited, and scrolling can be difficult. The Gilt City and Jetsetter apps are only available on iOS and both have 10 or fewer reviews for the current versions; all versions of Gilt City have received an average of 3 stars with slightly more than 450 reviews and Jetsetter boasts an impressive 5 stars with 1,700 reviews.
Fab is a (free) membership deal site focused on designer products in many categories, from food to fashion. Deals come at a variety of price points as well. The Fab app lets members browse and buy deals on the go and is available for iOS and Android devices. The latest iOS version wins 5 stars from a few reviews but all versions combined have received an average 4.5 stars from more than 11,000 reviews. Users say it offers fabulous deals, and one jokes that the biggest downside is the potential pain it causes their wallets. The Android app does equally well, with 4.5 stars based on more than 2,500 reviews. Again, the focus is on ease of use and the unique items available at bargain prices.
Despite ongoing offers of steep discounts on everything from flashlights to week-long vacations in Asia, enthusiasm for some daily deals has waned. Small businesses have complained about their experiences with some of the companies, and the deal offerings now seem limited to a few types of products and services. This may explain why sites like Gilt and Fab have become popular, with their focus on high quality and unique products or experiences rather than bottom line savings.